Posted in the Techy News Picks of the Day thread in the Meatspace forums, Synapsis uncovers this little treat for us. It’s only a matter of time before most of the customer service jobs in the industrialized world are “outsourced” to androids. When androids are able to consistently recognize a person coming up to them, and have a clear set of subroutines for a proceduralized interaction such as the one we encounter at a fast food joint, the opportunity arises for a significant conversion of roles. As long as the android can recognize the proper currency (or possible there is a machine this is inserted into), and “knows” when to refer the encounter to a manager, there becomes little reason to include humans. Labor costs go down, and procedural consistency goes up!

Welcome to your cyberpunked future!

This post has been filed under Cyberpunked living by SFAM.

November 16, 2006


Game Review By: Synapsis

Year: 1994

Author: Hideo Kojima

Platform: Other

Publisher: Konami

Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Very High

Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Very High

Rating: 9 out of 10



Introduction: When I heard the name Hideo Kojima the first thing that came to my mind was Metal Gear. But this has changed as; Kojima has other games for being remembered, like Snatcher. Besides the fact that Snatcher has been released on several systems it has also gained a small group of fans due to its storyline, adult themes and voice acting. Influenced by sci-fi and film-noir, most notably “Blade Runner” and “The Terminator”, Snatcher submerges one into a Cyberpunk World while giving you that nostalgia of older games.




The Story: Due to the release of a chemical weapon known as Lucipher-Alpha, developed in Chernoton, Russia, half of the people on Earth died. The contaminated area becomes uninhabitable for a decade, when Lucipher-Alpha mutates into a non-lethal form. This tragic event occurred on June 6, 1991 and became known as the “Catastrophe.” Fifty years later, a artificial life-forms known as “snatchers”, began appearing in the artificial island of Neo Kobe City, killing their victims and taking their place in society. They have skin, can sweat, even bleed and, at first sight, it is impossible to notice any difference between the Snatcher and the person they replace. Nobody knows exactly what they are or where they come from.

In the game, you play as Gillian Seed, an agent working for an Anti-Snatcher force called JUNKER. Seed has amnesia, which serves as the reason for him joining the Anti-Snatcher force. The word “Snatcher” always appears in his head whenever he tries to remember his past. In playing Gilliam Seed, your goal is to track down the source of the snatchers and discover Gillian’s mysterious connections with them.




The Game: As this game is ALL about the storyline, I won’t spoil it. You can really see how Kojima likes directing and making his games movie-like. It is clear that as a consequence the shortcomings in technology options, Kojima knew he had to make the story the driver in order to make up for the game play and technology of the time.

In playing it, the game is harder that it first appears. You have to notice and remember many details from witnesses or things you read. It also it has some questions and puzzles that will drive you mad for a while. It’s the first game I’ve had to play with a notebook for capturing important details. For your luck, Gillian has a navigator that helps him with all the complicated substance analysis and investigative matters. Kojima use of the Gillian character shows how he mixes things, as it is pretty similar to the minirobot Otacon uses to follow and help snake in MGS4 (Watch the trailers on youtube). For breaking the game investigative monotony, there are a series of shooter scenes where you have to use the Blaster - a special type of laser gun made to fry snatchers. These scenes aren’t numerous, but you will remember them as they require significant reflexes, especially as you near the end of the game.




Why You Want to Play Snatcher: The characters and storyline are what makes the game special. Even if Gillian physically resembles Deckard from Blade Runner, it’s still comes across as unique and believable. There are other “homage” characters included in Snatch - I’ll just name Dune and Sting as a clue for when you meet certain individual during the game. The Snatchers are pretty smart for being just biodroids, and they are pretty cunning and dangerous too!


Available Platforms:

  • NEC PC-8801 and MSX2 (1988)
  • PC-Engine (Remake 1992)
  • Sega CD (1994)
  • PSX and Sega Saturn (1996)


Visually the Sega CD version is pretty good and creates a great cyberpunk world with shadows and dark colors. The Sega version is obviously better than the 1988 versions which still make the task pretty well. The Sega voices are part of the remake versions that came from 1992 forward. The later version also have a better soundtrack.



The Availability: In terms of availability, get it from Internet or buy it used. The better and easier version to get is the Sega CD version as is the only original English translation available and you can find it on P2P programs. There are older roms translated, but the Sega CD version is better.




The Verdict: This review came about due to a reply I made to a Deus Ex post, saying someone should review Snatcher. Then I remembered I was half in the game. I picked it up again, started to play, and finished it that same afternoon. I liked it so much that I wanted to contribute with a review. While engrossed in the gameplay, when I realized the game was close completion, I just hoped another event would make the storyline longer. Despite being from all the way back in 1988, it’s #9 on the Best Cyberpunk Game List, so it deserves a try. I just gave it 9 stars because is older and the gameplay may not be for players who prefer more action. Anyways for me personally is 10/10 stars and modern remake would kick ass! Bottom line, this game is amazing, and has great storyline, and actually makes you feel you are in the cyberpunked city of Neo Kobe.


This post has been filed under Cyberpunk Games by Synapsis.

November 14, 2006


Movie Review By: SFAM

Year: 2002

Directed by: Kurt Wimmer

Written by: Kurt Wimmer

IMDB Reference

Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: High

Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Medium

Key Cast Members:

  • Cleric John Preston: Christian Bale
  • Dupont: Angus Macfadyen
  • Errol Partridge: Sean Bean
  • Brandt: Taye Diggs
  • Jürgen: William Fichtner
  • Mary O’Brien: Emily Watson
  • Rating: 8 out of 10


    Equilibrium Screen Capture


    Overview: Equilibrium is one of those movies that most everyone who knows of it has only seen it on DVD. Essentially thrown away by its studio, Equilibrium, created for a budget just over 20 million was given no dollars for marketing and made less than a million at the box office. But don’t let that sway you into thinking this movie is a piece of trash. Equilibrium has become a cult DVD hit. Made in Eastern Germany portion of Berlin, Equilibrium looks lots more substantial than the 20 million that went into it. Due to some terrific location choices, Equilibrium shines with a polish of a movie made for at least twice that budget. This, plus high quality acting and at least a modicum of interesting thought raise Equilibrium up from the pop-FX action-fest that it otherwise might have become.


    Equilibrium Screen Capture


    The Setting: Set sometime in the 21st century, after a massive nuclear war has wiped out the majority of the human race, a 1984 style society has emerged after a method of full population control was discovered. The entire population is now given a daily dose of a drug called of Prozium. Prozium removes all semblances of emotion, and leaves the populace docile and controlled. Exhibiting emotion is now considered the greatest of all crimes, and is punishable by death. The all-knowing, all-controlling “Father” has constructed a group of supra-police called “clerics” who spend their time seeking out “sense offenders” and burning all remnants of the old way.


    Equilibrium Screen Capture


    The Story: Cleric John Preston (starring Christian Bale) is among the best cleric enforcers. Along with his partner, Errol Partridge (Sean Bean), they spend their days burning heretical artifacts like the Mona Lisa and bringing sense offenders in for processing – a euphemism for baking people in a large oven. Unfortunately, Partridge has begun to have doubts about society, and has apparently stopped taking the drug. After Preston finds out and kills him, Partridge’s final thoughts compel Preston to revisit his own personal history in which he showed no emotions as his wife was burned for sense making. Preston begins to question the intense surveillance society.


    Equilibrium Screen Capture


    In tracking down Partridge’s lover (Emily Watson), Preston’s world finally crumbles. Now he realizes he has presided over the destruction of humanity, and can no longer continue. Unfortunately, Dupont (Angus Macfadyen), the mouthpiece of the Father and leader of the Clerics has asked Preston to infiltrate the remainder of the resistance in order to crush them once and for all. But Preston is actually approached by the resistance leader, Jürgen (William Fichtner) who has noticed his recent spate of emotion. While Preston is still conflicted, Jürgen tries to enlist Preston in destroying the Father. Even worse, Preston’s ambitious new partner, Brandt (Taye Diggs) strongly suspects Preston of becoming a sense offender.


    Equilibrium Screen Capture


    The Acting: The acting in Equilibrium is top notch. For my money, the best performance is turned in by Sean Bean, who, while only on screen for a brief time, really hammers home the essence of the message Equilibrium is conveying. But truly, all the main cast is terrific. Bale does a very good job in going through a conversion in losing his faith, while Fichtner, Macfadyen, Diggs and Watson all really add real believability to a somewhat forced story. Truly, the acting sets Equilibrium above a better than average genre movie to something really worth watching.


    Equilibrium Screen Capture


    The Action - GunKata: Gunkata is Kurt Wimmer’s newly invented martial art – gun combat in close quarters. The idea is that body positioning and fluid movements, along with an intense understanding of one’s opponents’ most likely actions will allow the Gunkata master – Clerics, in Equilibrium – to be close to unstoppable. Many times in Equilibrium, Preston goes into a room LOADED of bad guys and wipes them all out. Does it look in the least realistic? Not at all, but it does look cool. The action sequences are hectic by design, but are always well planned out and executed. Even if you could care less about the message, if you like gun fighting, Equilibrium is for you!


    Equilibrium Screen Capture


    The Visuals: The color of the day for Equilibrium is black, gray and occasionally white. Virtually everything is in black with brief highlights. This makes the instances where other colors are used, such as Preston’s Bruce Lee white outfit near the end of the picture, or the yellow sunset as seeming enormously more significant than they normally would seem. The other dominant theme is squared off architecture. Everything here is comprised of right angles to emphasize the controlled, boxed-in feel of the society. Even worse, the only prominent place that a circle appears is the processing factory, where sense-offenders are burned. Wimmer uses his most excellent set selections to optimal effect. The Cinematography choices always go for high shadows and contrasts, and usually come from interesting angles and contexts. Without trying to resort to high-tech wizardry, the world Wimmer ultimately creates is believable and otherworldly.


    Equilibrium Screen Capture


    Centralized Control and the Surveillance Society: While the message is often obscured by the slick visuals and action sequences, Equilibrium’s basis is right out of the Metropolis, 1984 model. In looking at a situation where humanity has gone awry, the corrective procedure is one which divorces people from that which makes them human – their emotions. In this model, emotion control leads to thought control, which yields a smooth, functioning society. The warning is clear – if we move down a road that involves giving up our personal freedom, the danger is that we lose our technology. If I were to point out quibbles with this, the idea of the single, evil genius behind all of everything bad lessons the impact. The message conveyed is that society slowly made the choice to go this route – it would have been better to see remnants of that choice still guiding the society versus the simple “glorious leader” bad guy.


    Equilibrium Screen Capture


    Is There Any Relevance to Today’s World? While only briefly mentioned by Sean Bean’s character, Partridge discusses the “trade off” that humanity made. In exchange for security and stability, they agreed to trade away their freewill. One gets the sense that this was a slow process at first, but which picked up dramatically once centralized control was present. While it’s a far stretch to imagine an emotion blocker being instituted, if we imagine freewill as a sliding scale, its clear that the debate between our personal freedoms and societal security measures are clashing right now. One can only imagine how much greater support the security side would be if in fact a nuclear conflict did break out. Unfortunately, this too is becoming far more likely – in 20 years, we can certainly envision that the number of groups and governments in possession of nuclear material will be far greater than today. The risk isn’t just that a small group of terrorists will use it. Unfortunately, pre-emption of conflict by larger countries could also lead to such a response. In short, as the concern for security and stability are greater, the pressure to impact personal freedoms will grow. If this isn’t a key ingredient for the creation of a cyberpunked world, I don’t know what would be.


    Equilibrium Screen Capture


    Is Equilibrium Cyberpunk? This is an open question at some level, but I’ve come down on the “yes” side (obviously, as its reviewed here) for three reasons. First, in Equilibrium, centralized control dominates all “above ground” communication, while the horizontal control is the domain of the rebels. We don’t really see any instances of an internet, but we know it exists in some form, based on the rebel leader Jürgen’s comments. The only true downer from a cyberpunk control standpoint is the book used to record contraband – gimme a break, Wimmer! The second reason is the drug, Prozium. The bio-engineered drugs serve as a dominating form of technology that serves to dehumanize society. Until we separate out “Biopunk” movies from Cyberpunk, Equilibrium belongs here. Thirdly, the visuals TRULY fit into a post-Matrix cyberpunk visual style. Without hearing a lick of dialogue, if you only saw the visuals, you might consider sticking Equilibrium into the cyberpunk bucket.


    Equilibrium Screen Capture


    The Bottom Line: Equilibrium makes the most of its 20 million dollar budget. Truly, after watching it, most people are shocked to find out how little was spent on making Equilibrium. From an execution standpoint, everything fits like a sleeck black glove. From the well integrated and motivating score, to the high quality acting, to the even pacing, Equilibrium works to create a very believable mood. On top of this, Equilibrium’s action is hot shit! Wimmer’s creation of GunKata - a new martial arts for close-combat gunfighting is interesting and innovative. However, the story itself is still a stretch, as is the believability of the Gunkata. In the end though, this is really a minor quibble, as the end product is intelligent enough to cause you to ponder while engaging enough to keep you entertained.


    ~See movies similar to this one~

    This post has been filed under Security-Surveillance State, 8 Star Movies, Good low-budget movies, Cyberpunk movies from 2000 - 2009 by SFAM.

    November 11, 2006

    Favorite Anime Character? Motoko Blows’em Away!

    Ghost in the Shell  Screen Capture

    In Cyberpunk Review’s most recent poll question, cyberpunk anime fans have spoken loud and clear - Major Motoko Kusanagi wins hands down! Starting off as a 10 member list, after a whopping 486 votes, the results are as follows:


    Who is your favorite cyberpunk animated character?

    • Major Motoko Kusanagi - Ghost in the Shell: 41% (198)
    • Batou - Ghost in the Shell: 17% (84)
    • Lain Iwakura - Serial Experiments Lain: 8% (40)
    • Gally (Alita) - Battle Angel: 6% (27)
    • Tetsuo Shima - Akira: 5% (26)
    • Æon Flux - Æon Flux: 5% (26)
    • Togusa - Ghost in the Shell1: 4% (19)
    • Priscilla S. Asagiri ‘Priss’ - Bubblegum Crisis: 3% (17)
    • Deunan Knute - Appleseed: 3% (16)
    • Real Mayer - Ergo Proxy1: 2% (12)
    • Armitage - Armitage III: 2% (11)
    • Taarna - Heavy Metal: 1% (6)
    • Saito - Ghost in the shell11: 0% (1)

    Total Votes : 486

    1 = Added by a guest

    Ghost in the Shell  Screen Capture


    Major Motoko Kusanagi - Ghost in the Shell: 41%

    Major Motoko Kusanagi has been a cornerstone of manga and anime since the early 90s. Starting out as a manga character in Masume Shirow’s highly influential Ghost in the Shell, she was transformed to the big screen by Anime master Mamoru Oshii in an anime of the same name in 1995. Since then, she’s played a cameo in GITS: Innocence, and more recently has starred in the GITS: Stand Alone Complex OAVs. Motoko, an extreme mechanically enhanced cyborg secret operative working for Section 9 - Japan’s anti-terrorism division, is one of the most recognized characters in cyberpunk. She’s hawt, highly intellectual and a badass besides. Her musings concerning the merging of man and machine are among the best discussions in cyberpunk. Probably just as important for this poll, some people LOVE the movie, while others are just as in love with the GITS:SAC series - no doubt both voted for this choice in garnering a whopping 198 votes!


    Ghost in the Shell: Innocence  Screen Capture


    Batou - Ghost in the Shell: 17%

    Surprisingly, our #2 choice, Batou comes in with a stron 17% vote finish. This means that the Ghost in the Shell series took in 58% of all votes cast - 62% if we add in user-added Togosa’s score! Talk about domination! Batou is also a serious badass with a complex history, but he also has an intellectual side. While he is a co-star in the first GITS movie and in GITS SAC, he is the star of GITS: Innocence. If you’ll looking for one of the finest visual feasts in anime coupled with some truly deep and interesting philosophical examinations, look no further than Batou in GITS: Innocence.


    Serial Experiments Lain  Screen Capture


    Lain Iwakura - Serial Experiments Lain: 8%

    For our #3 choice, Lain Iwakura is another of the mammoths in cyberpunk anime. If you’ve seen more than 3 cyberpunk animes, chances are you’ve seen Serial Experiments Lain. Written by post-modern scriptwriter-extraordinaire, Chiaki Konaka, Lain is a character who’s mind is slowly merging with cyberspace. The series itself is one of the first post-modern anime series, and is anything but straightforward. Like most of Konaka’s stories, it will take you more than a few episodes to figure out what’s going on, but the wait is worth it! Lain is both cute and vulnerable, but also represents the cyberpunk story of a normal person thrown into technological circumstances far beyond their control. Lain’s response, and the story itself provide some wonderful grist in thinking about the influence of cyberspace on the global consciousness.


    Battle Angel Screen Capture


    Gally (Alita) - Battle Angel: 6%

    One of the all-time greats in manga, Battle Angel Alita, is also a favorite in anime. While difficult to get your hands on, if you can find a copy of Battle Angel (think “Ebay”), chances are you’ll love it. Alita is one of the all-time cool anime cyberpunk chicks. Set in a dystopic world, Alita is literally put together from spare parts in a trash heap. It turns out, however, that she’s the farthest thing from a piece of junk. Battle Angel, which is highly influenced from the trail blazed by Akira, has some terrific post-human interest stories coupled with top-quality fight scenes.


    Akira Screen Capture


    Tetsuo Shima - Akira: 5%

    Tetsuo is one of the most influential characters in one of the most influential animes of all time - Akira. In true punk form, rebelling against the system, Tetsuo is transformed into a post-human powerhouse. The visual style provided by Katsuhiro Ôtomo and company forever transformed anime. In fact, most trace modern anime to this movie.


    Æon Flux Screen Capture


    Æon Flux: 5%

    Created by Peter Chung, Æon Flux is one of the sexiest animated characters around. If you haven’t seen it, Æon Flux is completely post-modern cyberpunk, with seriously inverted storylines, massively wierd technological impacts, and truly strange circumstances. More interesting, in season two, Æon ends up dying virtually every episode - and the deaths are spectacular! If you’re looking for a true “don’t give a shit” sexy badass anti-heroine, nobody comes close to Æon Flux.


    Ergo Proxy  Screen Capture


    The Rest: 15%

    Color me surprised, but I really expected Priss from Bubblegum Crisis and especially, Real Mayer from Ergo Proxy to do much better. In Real’s case, perhaps most haven’t seen Ergo Proxy. For Priss, perhaps someone else here has a good theory. While I love Deunan Knute from the Appleseed animes (first & second), and especially love Armitage from Armitage III, I doubted these were going to generate much interest. But Togusa? Wow! He wasn’t even on the list, but ended up garnering 4% after being added!

    This post has been filed under Poll Results by SFAM.

    November 10, 2006

    UCF: Toronto Cybercide

    Movie Review By: SFAM

    Year: 2006

    Directed by: Laszlo Kovacs, Andrew Hookway (Co-Director)

    Written by: Laszlo Kovacs

    IMDB Reference

    Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Low

    Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Medium

    Key Cast Members:

    • Sue: Sylvia C. Andreae
    • Jazz: Andrew Hookway
    • Marshall Pax: Bryan Patrick Stoyle
    • Cash: Laszlo Kovacs
    • The Nemesis: Justin Monk
    Rating: 4 out of 10


    UCF Toronto Cybercide Screen Capture


    Overview: UCF: Toronto Cybercide is an attempt to create a 70s style police show done up in futuristic cyberpunk. This is a production done by an enterprising group of amateur film makers called Key Pixel: Gathering of Filmers. As a review, this is a slightly different review than many I have done previously, in that I fully realize that this movie is no-budget, and is produced by highly motivated, but amateur film makers. I had previously decided not to give it a star rating, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense to consider it in many ways as I have the rest. This review will spend more time than most on details of what I thought really worked well, along with what I felt really needed improvement.


    UCF Toronto Cybercide Screen Capture


    The Story UCF: Toronto Cybercide takes place over 70 years into the future. Some aspects of society have collapsed, but the police are still on the job. A team of detectives, Sue (played by Sylvia C. Andreae), a tough action chick with a cybernetic arm and Jazz (played by Andrew Hookway), an emotive family guy, are sent to investigate some strange cyber deaths, and end up getting involved in a “good cyborg gone bad” story. Here to assist with the investigation is the almost-human Marshall Pax, a cyborg from the Unified Cybernetics Foundation. Together they must root out mafia involvement and stop the Nemesis (played by Justin Monk - and what cool name for an actor!) from randomly killing Toronto’s inhabitants.


    UCF Toronto Cybercide Screen Capture


    Narrative Issues: The underlying idea for Toronto Cybercide (70s cop show done in cyberpunk) is very interesting in scope, and if executed well, provides enough grist for cyberpunk enthusiasts to sink their teeth into some neat concepts. While some aspects worked well, there were a few key scenes that really could have significantly improved the overall experience.

    • The Introduction: While the text was interesting, the way it was implemented made it virtually impossible to get the context. The text wasn’t sequential, and each line started at a different time. This meant that you had to almost go back and rewind for each line to complete and then try to piece it together to figure out what was happening. Even then, we miss out on why the future still has CRT monitors, current model cars, modern phones and 1940s phones together, etc. The luddites are mentioned, but really only in passing.
    • Transition leading up to the final battle: The transition leading up to the final battle is virtually nonexistent. There really should have been a scene or two leading up to how and why all three parties came together. All we are given is that a trap has been sprung by the mafia, and that the police magically seem to know where.
    • Why don’t we get to see the Nemesis? The bulk of the complexity in character development involves the Nemesis, but unfortunately we rarely get to see this. To the extent he shows up, we get no sense of the internal conflict taking place within the Nemesis. Toronto Cybercide really could have benefited from two scenes (one near the beginning, and one after the kitchen scene) that explored this conflict.
    • Why is the Cyborg eating regular food? One of the challenges here was in trying to make the Marshall otherworldly. The kitchen scene gives a good opportunity to show him eating a fabricated food source. Instead, he is eating milk and cake.


    UCF Toronto Cybercide Screen Capture


    The Cinematography: Kovacs strong point seems to be in constructing some interesting visuals and textures. While many scenes were average, every now and then we’d get a terrific perspective shot, or angle which really added to the context of the scene. Toronto Cybercide is definitely at its best when going for a noir feel. Grays, blacks, overexposed whites and reds worked FAR better than the background soft yellow scenes. And while some scenes were exceptional, others, such as the dust scene sorely detract from the suspension of disbelief. Like the sound, consistency in crafting is definitely advocated.


    UCF Toronto Cybercide Screen Capture


    The FX: The FX is very low budget, in sort of a Dr. Who sort of way. For the most part, it works though. The laser gunshots were decent enough, and while the cybernetic arm could have been better, Andreae (Sue) worked it very effectively in the action scenes to the point that it was very believable. Perhaps the coolest one, as was pointed out on the directors commentary was the knife in the book in the Club Red scene – this just worked wonderfully and really helped sell Sue’s strength. Also terrific though was the Luddite TV screen - this more than any other FX scene left a sense of a different time and place.


    UCF Toronto Cybercide Screen Capture


    The Editing: For the most part, the visual editing in Toronto Cybercide really works. The pacing is solid, and most all of the investigation and action scenes work. In particular, the early battles and chase scenes really held together well, while the last fight scene came across as a tad too haphazard. The only early shot that really stuck out as wildly problematic was a quick camera jerk near the beginning when the long-haired minion was bitching about following “his part of the deal.” This could have been spliced a bit to become more workable.


    UCF Toronto Cybercide Screen Capture


    The Acting: The acting in Toronto Cybercide is far from top notch – then again, this is to be expected in an amateur production. As a clear standout, Bryan Patrick Stoyle as Marshall Pax turns in a very credible performance as a stoic, post-human cyborg. More problematic were the two cops, Sylvia Andreae and Andrew Hookway. Part of the issue is they are attempting to be your traditional 15 year, jaded cop types – this was just a hard sell both due to their age, and unfamiliarity with jaded cop stuff. From a narrative perspective, their performance would be greatly aided had it been set up that most cops had already been wiped out, and that these were junior cops thrust into events greater than they were experienced to handle. This would have played far better to their age, character development and overall performance. If there was one change I would make though, it would be eliminating Kovacs’ Matrix Merovingian nod – that scene in the Club Red CLEARLY indicates how good an actor Lambert Wilson in the Matrix sequels really is. Kovacs’ acting works well in most scenes, but that dialogue stretch will get a deservedly horrid groan from all viewers.


    UCF Toronto Cybercide Screen Capture


    The Music: For the most part, the electronic music accompaniment is one of the best crafted aspects of Toronto Cybercide, and adds well to the mood of many scenes. Simple movement music, such as the background for the train station scene, work wonderfully to pick up the pace. The best use of sound accompaniment was probably the emotive flashbacks that Marshall Pax. The worst was definitely the ending battle. There the music was sort of a slow, ongoing, day to day sound for a scene that needed high tension, fast paced accompaniment.


    UCF Toronto Cybercide Screen Capture


    The Sound: The sound in Toronto Cybercide is sometimes great, sometimes horrid. In most scenes, we get either great background sounds or solid transfer’s of action from the left to right speakers, that carefully mimic the movement of those on-screen. These, when combined with the fast-paced electronic background accompaniment really add to the moment. In some scenes, the mix clearly needs LOTS more work – all too often the levels seem to shift dramatically, especially with the inclusion of needless white noise (the kitchen scene is probably the worst instance of this). Far worse though was a scene near the beginning - we even get an ultra-loud, high pitch sound that dominates the speakers for no particular reason – this occurs a time or two later as well. Aside from this though, clearly a lot of work to the sound FX


    UCF Toronto Cybercide Screen Capture

    Best line of the movie - “Not once…did he try to grab my ass.”


    Creating a Cyberpunked World Without A Budget: One of the real challenges that Kovacs and company deal with is creating a futuristic cyberpunked world on no budget. I must applaud them for making an attempt such as this, and truly hope to see more efforts such as this. Their challenge is especially problematic in that they are basically stuck with their local surroundings. Kovacs often addresses this by almost attempting to do sort of a staged play approach, where most scenes take place in barren rooms - the audience is left to fill in the details for themselves. He also attempts retrograde technology approaches, such as using 1940s phones for communications. And while some of the scenes work well, there is clearly a lot to be improved. In too many shots, we get close-ups of current year cars, lamps, and a myriad of other current-technology items that suspend disbelief. A better approach might have been to use close-up shots in cars, and so forth so as not to give away the actual “look” of the vehicle used. If they are forced to show these things, there needs to be something in the intro about describing why technology hasn’t advanced (as a counterpoint, Puzzlehead does fairly decent world-building rationales on a very low budget). In truth, the explanation on the movie cover is almost required to get the jist of the world:


    In 2078 something had stopped the motor of the world.

    Decades later, civilization is still recovering from the global network crash. In this post-dystopian age, remnants of the old technologies remain, including cyborgs and man-machine interfaces. To regulate the disaffected remnants - colloquially known as ‘Burnouts’ - the Unified Cybernetics Foundation is formed to deal with post-human law enforcement.

    It is now 2106, one hundred years in the present. When two Toronto police detectives are caught in the middle of a specific multiple murder case involving Burnouts, UCF sends one of their Marshals to assist.

    And when the Foundation gets involved, nothing is ever simple.


    UCF Toronto Cybercide Screen Capture


    Toronto Cybercide works best in darker, shadow-filled scenes such as the shot above. A Noir look is a useful way of getting around technology shortcomings. More problematic though is the lack of exploration of the dynamics of the world itself. On Kovacs and Hookway’s commentary, they mention the concern in spending too much time on expository scenes. While I agree with the concern, this isn’t the only way the technology impacts on society can be conveyed. Character explorations and build-ins to the scenes themselves provide the grist for world building. Case in point – early in the film, our detectives do the traditional intro talk with the police chief. This would be a great scene for providing insight on how a police station might work differently in a cyberpunked world 100 years from now - instead, we get the chief typing away on a keyboard while staring at a CRT monitor. How about an earpiece, possibly an eye cover, and a VR glove where the police chief is interacting with a large flat screen? We wouldn’t even need to see the flatscreen to get a sense that things are different. If this makes no sense due to degredation in the technology, I’m sure that there could have been some way of conveying difference in surroundings here, without resorting to high-tech FX.


    UCF Toronto Cybercide Screen Capture


    UCF Toronoto Cybercide - When Good Cyborgs Go Bad: The underlying challenge involves a specially trained marshall cyborg (the Nemesis) infected with a signal contagion. This contagion creates a complex dynamic where the Nemesis’ human portion is working hard not to allow the infection to spread, while at the same time, he is no longer in control of his actions. In an environment where we see a continual merging of man and machine, its only a matter of time before issues like this become a concern. The psychological aspect of an augmented person losing a battle over his humanity is definitely something that should require more examination. While not as explored as I much as I would have liked, the idea here is top notch, and definitely separates Toronto Cybercide from the bottom of the barrel cyberpunk flicks which don’t bother with interesting storylines.


    UCF Toronto Cybercide Screen Capture


    The Bottom Line: UCF: Toronto Cybercide provides us an interesting, no-budget cyberpunk flick. I can only imagine the amount of decidation that goes in to a project such as this - in many instances this clearly shows. In some places, such as the “mood” moments, it clearly excels. Every now and then, you find a scene where everything comes together - the sound, visuals and acting have moments of riviting clarity. Some of the cinematography decisions, the pacing, the music and some fun dialogue lines serve to create a fun watching experience. Moreso, the 70s cop cyberpunk idea works. However, there are many areas where significant opportunities for improvement can be realized. If a sequel is enacted, a better explanation of the world is necessary, along with a better way of hiding current technologies. More important though would be a dramatically improved sense of consistency in the sound and visuals crafting. This more than anything else gives would move Key Pixel Productions from amateur status to that of a professional, low budget production house. Regardless, UCF: Toronto Cybercide is still a fun watch, one that I recommend you pick up. Please support this amateur cyberpunk flick and pick up a copy so that we end up with a sequel at some point.


    ~See movies similar to this one~

    This post has been filed under Memory Modification, Amateur Film Production, Dystopic Future Movies, Man-machine Interface, 4 Star Movies, Cyberpunk movies from 2000 - 2009 by SFAM.

    pumpkin carving


    Well I’m back now. Pumpkin carving pretty much takes up my life for a while - moreso this year as a local paper did a spread on my carvings. I ended up spending 9 hours sculpting the Death Star on a 120 pound pumpkin and another 11 1/2 hours creating a detailed, full scale dragon. In any event, although totally exhausted, I had a fun time with this. Check out my carvings if interested. Now, back to cool discussions and movie reviews!

    This post has been filed under Site Development by SFAM.

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